The video was just Barney running through the White House chasing a big red ornament and stopping in all the major rooms to look up at the decorations. The soundtrack was Christmas music.
Laura Bush unveiled the video at Children's National Medical Center in Washington. All three major news networks carried the entire 4½-minute video live.
At about the four-minute mark on CNN, the newscaster said, "I can't believe we're airing this." I had to nod in agreement.
We put the video on the White House website, and the traffic was so huge it brought the site down briefly. That week, the video was downloaded 600,000 times. This was in 2002. Pre-YouTube. And pre-mass broadband. If you wanted to watch the video, you had to have patience.
In fall 2003, White House colleagues began coming to me, asking what we would do for a Barney Cam encore. We knew we had to do a sequel and had already named it. "Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded."
One problem. We had no plot. But just as in Hollywood, that was inconsequential.
Eventually my friend Bob DeServi (another White House communications staffer) and I came up with one. The New York Times noted: "The plot of the video is more complex than last year's video, which had no plot." It was a cliffhanger, actually. Barney was ordered by Chief of Staff Andrew Card to put up the holiday decorations, but Barney preferred to play with his ball.
This year, everyone wanted a part. After the previous success of Barney Cam, as well as the White House video tours, there was great demand to appear in the video. I remember talking to Bartlett, telling him that, to make the sequel complete, we really needed the president.
"The president has a lot on his plate," Bartlett said. "Iraq, Saddam Hussein, the economy. I'm not going to ask him."
Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m., I was awakened by the phone call.
"Whatever I did, I'm sorry," I said.
Ashley Estes, the president's secretary, said: "No, it's fine. The president needs you to come in right away."
I said, "Why?"
The president wants to film "Barney Cam II."
I was rushed to the South Lawn upon my arrival at the White House. Barney was in position. The president and his personal assistant, Blake Gottesman, were walking out to the South Lawn.
Blake came up to me and said, "Jimmy, would you like to brief the president?"
I had always thought that if this were to happen, the topic would be a little more glamorous. Maybe like national security. But I'd take this.
"Mr. President, as you know, today we are filming 'Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded.' Mr. President, here's your motivation.